Consider consideration. Like many other words, to consider can have a few related, but different, common meanings. When we speak of considering a situation, possible outcomes, options, and such, we mean that there are things that should be thought about carefully and taken into account before an action is taken. When we speak of considering other people, we typically mean that they and their interests should be on our minds in our conduct of life.
There is another type of consideration of others – it entails an examination of their lives and drawing from that examination something useful for our lives. In verse three of the sermon text for this past Sunday (Hebrews 12:1-11) the author gives us the instruction to consider of Christ in this sense. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (ESV) The last part of this verse gives us the anticipated outcome of considering Christ: strength and confidence to endure trouble – especially the hostility of others.
What is it about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that imparts strength and confidence to His considerate followers? There are many things, most of which are only seen in vivid detail as we consider Him while enduring the difficulties of life for ourselves. Single-mindedness in the glorifying of the Father, joyful hope, and gratitude are a few examples. But here is a glimpse of just one for your consideration.
Think back on the hours leading up to Christ’s death. What did He endure at the hands of sinners? Mocking, scorn, beating, slander, humiliation, denial, being treated as a political pawn, publicly hung naked on a tree to die. Having just endured these things and in the midst of the suffering, what was His prayer to the Father? “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“What do you mean, ‘they know not what they do’?”, I could hear myself asking. “They know exactly what they are doing!” Was Jesus delirious? Was He delusional? Of course he was not. The people who were clamoring for and carrying out His execution were aware of their actions and the outcomes, but they were blind to the wickedness of their hearts and to the person of Christ whom they had beaten and hung on a cross. They only thought they knew what they were really doing. If they had possessed true wisdom, they would have fallen on their faces in worship instead of spitting in the face of and crucifying the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8)
When other sinners cause us grief and suffering, our instinctual response is anger. “How dare they?”, we think, “They did that intentionally!” Perhaps they did. Would they have done it if they really knew what they were doing? If they weren’t blind to the truth? If they possessed wisdom from above that is “peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”? (James 3:14-17) Of course they wouldn’t. Neither would we when we are the oppressors of others.
If we would but consider Christ, we would know how to endure in the course God has given to us just like Christ did in the one the Father gave to Him. And we find in Christ not just the knowledge of how to endure. We could never turn knowledge into enduring strength and courage. We also find the power to carry it out.
Some of us in our family have been going through The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom these last few weeks. There are many examples of what it looks like to consider Christ found in this account of terrible mistreatment of people by those around them. One particular example sticks out.
Corrie and her sister Betsie had been taken to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany where, among other cruelties, they were subjected to a weekly medical inspection that involved stripping naked in front of the guards and standing at attention while waiting for a cursory examination. She writes,
But it was one of these mornings while we were waiting, shivering in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me.
He hung naked on the cross.
I had not known- I had not thought… The paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at the least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh- at the time itself, on that other Friday morning- there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now.
I leaned toward Betsie, ahead of me in line. Her shoulder blades stood out sharp and thin beneath her blue-mottled skin.
“Betsie, they took His clothes too.”
Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. “Oh, Corrie. And I never thanked Him…”pp. 178-9
Some years after the war was over, Corrie was traveling and speaking in Germany. After one such occasion, she encountered a Ravensbruck guard she recognized. He had been the one watching at the shower room door when she and her sister were first brought to the camp.
And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal [home for released prisoners] the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.p. 215
We don’t know what we will face on this journey – some of us have already faced much trouble at the hands of other sinners. We do know that it has been granted “to us to suffer for Christ’s sake” (Philippians 1:29). May God also grant us the grace of considering Christ that we may, like Him, endure all things in His strength and courage for His glory!